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David Gray's Shock of the New Produces Awe: Concert Review

David Gray Wilshire Ebell Theatre Vertical - P 2014
Chris Godley

The Bottom Line

Singer/songwriter plays entire new album "Mutineers" before adoring fans in intimate L.A. show that works, flaws and all.

Venue

Wilshire Ebell Theater
Los Angeles
(April 24)

Singer/songwriter plays entire new album "Mutineers" before adoring fans in intimate L.A. show that works, flaws and all.

Most artists will tell you they prefer to play their new songs in concert, but few take it to the extremes David Gray did as he kicked off an eight-date North American tour in Los Angeles in front of a sold-out crowd at the intimate Wilshire Ebell Theater.

“This is us going through the whole record here, and it’s actually the first time we’ve done it,” Gray said before leading his impressive seven-piece backing band through a lovely piano-based “Birds of the High-Arctic,” which ended with a long sing along.

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It’s asking a lot of an audience to listen to an entire album’s worth of new material almost two full months before release date (it comes out June 17), but it was an obvious treat for Gray’s adoring fans, who yelled their love for him so much during the show it felt like an adult version of a One Direction concert. And this came from both male and female members, leading to a very amusing moment as the affable Gray dedicated the tender ballad “Last Summer” to a male baritone voice who’d professed his love. “This is a romantic little song, especially for you,” he quipped. “I’ve just got to get the memory of those sweet, sultry nights out of my head.”

The unusual format resulted in some unpolished points as Gray and mates performed, including one where he joked about having a “twin mic attack” before a brief false start on the new album’s “Beautiful Agony.” Behind Gray’s unassuming charm, though, those moments only added to the idea fans were seeing something special, a glimpse into the development of a show.

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This was very much a show, complete with a full light display, most often in red, orange and yellow, and a video screen that took up the whole back wall. Gray and the band matched the big production on several occasions, delivering a much fuller sound than fans only familiar with “Babylon” or “This Year’s Love” might expect.

The new album’s title track, which Gray introduced by joking, “This should be fun,” was indeed a blast, as it rose into a huge climax that found him adding harmonica to the fast-paced instrumentation. Other highlights off the new album included “Snow In Vegas,” which had an almost country feel, complemented by video images of the moon and trees and the jangly pop/rock vibe of “As the Crow Flies.

Though the whole first half of the show was devoted to the new material, there were plenty of highlights to come from Gray’s rich catalog, even if he did quip before “This Year’s Love,” “I think I can still remember how to do these ones.” Among the standouts of the greatest hits were a gorgeous solo acoustic version of “Shine” and a massive “Sail Away” that closed the show.

The encore, of course, began with a superb rendition of “Babylon” that had the crowd on their collective feet throughout, and also included “Laughing Gas” and a thunderous “Nemesis” that prompted one fan to yell “’Nemesis’ is the shit.” They were right. It was a triumphant ending to an ambitious night, one that rewarded not only the audience, but the artist as well, as evidenced by the huge grin on Gray’s face as he walked off saying, “That’s it, that’s the end of my show. Thank you, Los Angeles.”

Set list:

Gulls
The Incredible
Cake And Eat It
Back in the World
As the Crow Flies
Mutineers
Last Summer
Beautiful Agony
Snow in Vegas
Girl Like You
Birds of the High-Arctic
Shine
This Year’s Love
Kathleen
Fugitive
The One I Love
Sail Away

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Babylon
Laughing Gas
Nemesis

Chris Godley